Nigel Jaquiss and Aaron Mesh, Willamette Week, August 11, 2021
When an unknown gunman fatally shot 18-year-old Makayla Harris in the early morning hours of July 17, the brazen killing in downtown Portland continued an alarming trend: Black Portlanders such as Harris are being murdered at an extraordinary rate.
In fact, in the 12 months ending June 30, more than 1 in every 1,000 Black people living in Portland died in a homicide. That’s a rate far higher than that experienced in U.S. cities most known for gun violence.
Portland saw 94 homicides in that period, according to newly released Portland Police Bureau figures, and of that number, 39 victims—that is, 41%—were Black.
Black people make up 5.8% of the city’s population. Put another way, Black Portlanders were killed at about seven times their share of the city’s population—and 12 times the rate of white people.
“I am acutely aware of the high rate of Black and Brown victimization from gun violence,” says City Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who worked in the city’s crime prevention office before becoming last year the third Black man ever elected to the Portland City Council. “It is absolutely unacceptable.”
The 39 Black victims killed in Portland in that one year mark a 250% increase from the 11 Black homicide victims in 2019.
In the 12 months ending June 30, Black Portlanders died in homicides at a rate of 102 per 100,000 people.
That’s a significantly higher rate than their peers in cities better known for violent crime. WW examined the rates in other U.S. cities that tracked demographic data for homicide victims during the same period. (The calculations were based on local murder-tracking sites and FBI and U.S. Census data.)
Those cities include Chicago (77 per 100,000) and Philadelphia (64 per 100,000). Black Portlanders died at a higher rate than Black Baltimoreans and at nearly double the rate of Black Los Angelenos.